Atlanta United went down to Monterrey to face a Rayados side that have not lost a match, in any competition, since December. They came back on the wrong side of a 3-0 scoreline that gave the Mexican giants complete control of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal tie.
BW: You start.
MD: No, you start.
BW: *sigh* Let’s start by pasting in what we had when the score was 1-0...
MD: If I’d offered you a 1-0 loss before this game, you’d have taken it, right?
BW: 100 percent. I’ve been perusing Twitter throughout the game and people seem discouraged. One of the weirder things in sports is when fans know it’s going to be a tough game, and then they get critical halfway through when the game isn’t going in their favor. Like I said in the Sporting Kansas City postgame column… understand the battles you can win, accept and survive the ones you cannot, and then make sure you capitalize on the advantage when you have it. Atlanta’s two for three, with the third coming in the return leg next week.
MD: Here is the lens through which I viewed this game:
- Atlanta’s defensive shape was very good
- The errors were individual, not collective
- Their attacking shape was non-existent, which is fine on the road against arguably the best team in the region
- That said, it might be a long-standing issue as neither Pity Martinez, nor Ezequiel Barco, nor Darlington Nagbe is a true chance creator. They’re all dribblers.
There’s nobody pulling the strings, and the fans know it even if they can’t quite verbalize it.
So they have a chance in this series, but I think the fans are reacting to potential problems within the roster itself.
BW: It feels strange to me that you’d say Pity can’t create chances (and that Nagbe is a dribbler…). It’s also strange that you’d say it after this game, in which he never made it five yards before someone from Monterrey kicked him. It was actually incredible to watch; anytime Pity got beyond the first player, the guy would take the foul. It’s the type of thing that would garner a yellow in league play for persistent infringement on a single player, but often gets ignored in cup competition because refs don’t want to give cards. It’s horrible to watch, but man, did it work.
Pity Martinez fouls drawn through 72 minutes: pic.twitter.com/VrNesUjZZM— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) March 7, 2019
I’ll keep an eye out for your point, though. I had never thought about the potential for Atlanta to struggle to create opportunities.
BW: Man, that feels like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?
MD: They just fell apart at about the 75th minute. 1-0 got to 3-0 in a hurry – basically as soon as they got stretched.
I have serious questions about Frank de Boer’s lack of subs, and as I said above, I’m concerned about the lack of a true midfield string-puller. Pity’s a guy you play to, not through, and so we’ve seen the Five Stripes constantly run out of ideas in the attacking third in three of their four games.
This is supposed to be mitigated, I believe, by quick and intricate combination play. It feels like the ramping-up process on that is going to be protracted.
BW: I’m both heartbroken and frustrated by the 3-0 loss, but also much less concerned about Atlanta as a whole. The three games they lost were all super weird data points: On the road in Costa Rica, then on the road for a league game before a huge continental quarterfinal, then on the road at the most expensive team on the continent. It’s not to say you’re wrong -- I’m certainly a little worried about Atlanta, as well -- but I’m not sure it’s reliable to make assessments yet.
MD: That seems like a rational assessment. Why don’t you go run that sucker up ye olde twitter flagpole and see how #UniteAndConquer nation’s taking it at the moment?
BW: No thanks, that website scares the crap out of me.
MD: Smart man. Good survival instincts.
And a bad two days for MLS teams in the CCL. This isn’t Sisyphus pushing the rock up the mountain only for it to roll back down the other side; this is Tantalus reaching for the grapes and water that are seemingly forever out of reach.
Four games, four losses. Only Sporting with more than a longshot chance at taking it home in Leg 2.